Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Remembering the father of Monterey County wine country at first grape harvest of fall season

Al Scheid, founder of Scheid Family Wines, at an outdoor celebration.
Photo by Randy Tunnell, courtesy Scheid Family Wines.
Al Scheid, founder of Scheid Family Wines, at his 90th birthday celebration in 2022.

Most folks know Monterey County experienced a number of losses last March, when a second round of historic floods forced residents of Pajaro to flee from their homes overnight.

It also produced severe and lasting damage around both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, upending Monterey’s agricultural industry, which is still recovering.

At the end of March, another serious blow was felt by those in the local ag industry — specifically, those in the wine industry, which lost one of its founding fathers when Al Scheid passed away on Friday, March 31, 2023.

It’s not without a sense of loss, then, that the bounty of the Monterey County wine harvest arrives. The honor of hosting the first daytime harvest went to Scheid Family Wines, which at 51 is one of the oldest wine grape growers in the county.

Scott Scheid is Al’s son and the CEO of the family business, where he’s served as President and CEO since 2000.

“It’s been a cool summer,” said Scheid. “So we're two to three weeks behind our usual schedule, but extremely happy to get started.”

A crystal-clear blue sky hangs over white plastic bins full of Pinot Noir grapes in front of rows of grapevines, with the Santa Lucia mountain range rising in the back.
Adrienn Mendonca-Jones, KAZU.
Bins full of Pinot Noir grapes, destined for the winery of Scheid Family Wines in Greenfield, California, where the hand-harvested grapes will be used for the company’s namesake brand, Scheid Vineyards, in their Isabelle Cuvée.

The harvest took place on a beautiful blue-sky day at Isabelle’s Vineyard, which at three acres is the smallest vineyard in Scheid Family Wines’ portfolio. It’s also named after Al’s mother, Isabelle.

The tiny, delicate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes harvested from this particular vineyard are destined for bottles of Isabelle’s Sparkling Wine, found in the company’s namesake brand, Scheid Vineyards — and everyone turns out to help.

“It's been kind of our tradition to have all office personnel come out and help, so people who are not normally picking grapes come out for a little camaraderie. There's a big build up throughout the company to the harvest season,” said Scheid.

A view between two rows of green Pinot Noir grapevines. A person uses a grapevine knife to cut the grapes from the vine.
Adrienn Mendonca-Jones, KAZU.
Inside Isabelle's Vineyard, where the Pinot Noir grapes were cut from the vines in the first harvest of the season.

Though Al Scheid was 91 when he passed away, he still came out for big events. This year’s harvest marks the first time a Scheid Family Wines harvest has happened without Al as a leader in the company.

“My dad lived to 91 years old. He really taught us a lot, and he prepared us for carrying on the business. Obviously, at 91 years old and through his 80s and 90s, he was involved in the business, but mostly from strategic planning and talking about things (like) the future,” said Scheid, who, along with his sister Heidi, studied business at university and worked for other corporations before coming back into the family fold.

There’s one good reason why it’s a family business, says Scheid.

“He really hated day-to-day operations. He loved starting companies, and he started several others that have nothing to do with the wine industry,” including biotechnology and electronics firms.

“He joked about that, that this business he got his kids in was the longest endeavor ever. He was very proud. And he lives on in all of us going forward. That includes this harvest of 2023.”

Adrienn Mendonca-Jones is a folklorist and producer at KAZU. She also teaches in the Humanities and Communication Department at California State University, Monterey Bay.